The minister of youth and sports development, Sunday Dare, has applauded the Nigeria’s national women’s basketball team, D’Tigress, following a narrow nine points defeat to United States’ team in their opening match at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games in Japan.
The African champions lost 81-72 to the United States in a Group B match played in Saitama on Tuesday with a heroic performance against the same USA side they were beaten by 93-62 in an exhibition game in Las Vegas less than two weeks ago.
Since losing in the quarterfinals at the Barcelona ‘92 Olympics, the US women have now gone 50 matches without defeat at the Olympics. But the D’Tigress quibbled and disrupted the American to win the first quarter by 20-17.
The American girls however got the pace back in full swing in the second quarter and opened an 18-pt lead, but a 6-0 run by Nigeria, including a buzzer 3pt shot from Adaora Elonu ensured that they went into the break trailing by 12pts, reducing the gap.
Prior to the Olympics, much of the team’s build-up was centered around the nationality switch of the Ogwumike sisters (Nneka and Chiney), which was almost a distraction as Nigeria didn’t know if they would get the clearance for the players until a few days to the Games.
With other players like Evelyn Akhator out injured, Nigeria was thin on big players who could have made the difference in this game against the US with Brittney Griner and A’Ja Wilson had it all too easy against Nigeria, and it made all the difference as Nigeria struggled to finish off their offensive rebounds particularly in the 2nd quarter.
Nigeria had more offensive rebounds (19) and if they had a big player in the paint who could have knocked in a few of those, maybe it would have made some difference in a game the US made 45 defensive rebounds.
Nigeria will hope to bounce back to winning ways against France on Friday, a game which will go a long way in determining their quest to make the quarterfinals, before finishing off their last group game against the hosts Japan.
Minister Dare, who was ground cheering the Nigeria’s ladies throughout the match, said he was impressed with the way the African champions fought from start-to-finish against top ranked USA side.
“I watched the game from the start to the end. Every moment, I saw players who could fight and they fought.
“From 20 point disadvantage, I saw them climb back steadily, the height and build of the Americans notwithstanding,” said Dare, before expressing confidence about D’Tigress’ chances in their next game against France on Friday.
“The next game will be better. I trust them. They are like a family. Going up against the Americans like they did, our team is good and can be better.”